Interview with Naughty By Nature (Vin Rock)
When I was in middle-school the world of music was rocked by Naughty By Nature’s debut single ‘O.P.P.’. It seemed like you couldn’t turn on the radio, or attend a party or dance without the song being dropped as everyone in attendance sang along. It was no surprise that their first album went platinum and the trio quickly rose to fame. Fast forward 25 years and Naughty By Nature is still at it. They are currently working on new music and in the midst of a 26 city tour which concludes in Philly on February 28th with a show at the TLA. I hopped on the phone with Vin Rock, to chat about the tour, the current state of hip-hop, their rise to fame, and a slew of other topics.
Independent Philly: Who is credited with creating the name ‘Naughty By Nature’?
Vin Rock: That would be Treach. Naughty By Nature was the title of a song that we had when we were a different group called ‘The New Style’. So, you know, when we were The New Style we came upon Queen Latifah and Flavor Unit and the first business at hand was, we have to change our name. So Treach was the one flipping through all the old songs and lyrics and he said “Yo, we should be Naughty By Nature because it’s more inclusive. Everyone can, you know, be Naughty By Nature”. That’s what we settled on.
Independent Philly: It’s hard to believe that this is already the 25 year anniversary of Naughty By Nature. If you could go back in time 25 years and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Vin Rock: My piece of advice would be to just keep the group as tight as possible and shield the group away from the vultures as much as possible. Because there’s always people that encounter your success and then they deliberately try to rip you apart, just so they can take elements of your success and try to duplicate it.
Independent Philly: ‘O.P.P.’ was not only a hit at the time when you guys first penned it, but has remained one of the quintessential rap hits of all time. Did you ever think you would achieve so much success with that song? And, although we already know what it means, please confirm for our readers once and for all, what the final ‘P’ stands for.
Vin Rock: Right. Well, the final ‘P’ stands for ‘pussy’, and when it comes to the males, it stands for ‘penis’. So, other people’s pussy, other people’s penis, a.k.a. other people’s property. The funny thing about that song is, when it was time to pick our first single, I remember debating with our manager at the time, Shakim from Flavor Unit, and he was trying to pick another song, ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’. I remember telling him, “Sha, you don’t think people are down with other people’s pussy?” and he was like, “Infidelity will always work”. Lo and behold, we chose ‘O.P.P.’ and that’s what worked. It’s definitely the golden goose egg for us.
Independent Philly: You guys are set to drop a new EP in 2016. What can you tell me about the new music and how does it vary from past Naughty By Nature releases?
Vin Rock: As of right now we are just getting started. As of December 2nd, that was Treach’s birthday, he wanted to start his birthday at 11 am in the studio with Kay Gee and I. We did that. We started pulling up tracks, pulling up concepts and ideas, and figuring out how we are gonna approach this EP preliminarily. You know, so far so good. We are going to get into the meat and bones, the actual work on the album, during the tour. We are definitely going to give you, the people, some great Naughty By Nature music, and we will definitely not be chasing, what’s happening today. We actually look forward to bringing a new sound to hip-hop and maybe we can change the dynamic that’s going on right now.
Independent Philly: That leads me into another question, it seems like a lot of today’s rap is just dudes like Drake, whining on auto-tune. How do you view the current crop of hip-hop artists and the evolution of rap over the past 25 years?
Vin Rock: It’s been crazy, from when we came out, to the ‘gansta’ era of hip-hop, to what’s going on right now which is basically like trap music, and strip-club music. It’s crazy, you know, and a lot of it is sad to see. However, there are some refreshing artists out there, like Kendrick Lamar, like J. Cole, they remind me of that throwback, authentic hip-hop. For me, all is not lost but there’s still more work to do. I just challenge my peers, veteran artists, and artists alike who don’t like the landscape of what’s going on right now, to just get in the studio, man, and let’s all put some chips on the table, you know? Other than that, you’re left with what you’re left with.
Independent Philly: You’re hitting 26 different stops on this tour that started in late January, what’s the best part about getting back out on the road?
Vin Rock: It’s really meeting a lot of the fans who we haven’t seen in a while. A lot of these markets, we haven’t been in, in a very long while. It’s about just getting out there with the fans and striking a chord with the fan base in all of these different markets. Even with today, because of all of the technology, it’s a direct-to-fan market place out here, so it’ll really help us solidify our current fan base, and get a gauge of who’s really out there for us, and just grow the fan base. We’ll keep engaging ’em, and giving them new music, and new product.
Independent Philly: You guys are wrapping up the tour here in Philly on February 28th. Are you planning on saving anything special for the last night of the tour? What can your fans expect from a live Naughty By Nature performance if they’ve never seen you in person before?
Vin Rock: Oh wow. Well people know that Naughty has a very high energy show. High energy man, we don’t stop. Once our show starts, we never stop; it’s high energy. So if you’ve never seen a classic hip-hop performance before, you definitely need to come out. As well, our show always evolves as we go along, so, by the time we get to Philly, I guarantee that where we started on January 27th, the show will be three-fold by the time we get to Philly.
Independent Philly: You’ve had the chance to work with everyone from Queen Latifah to RUN DMC, Pitbull to Spike Lee. Who is someone that you’d love the opportunity to work with that you haven’t had a chance to thus far?
Vin Rock: I think a great collaboration for Naughty would be with Snoop Dog. You know, he’s an ultimate, great peer of ours. I wish we could have collaborated even more with Michael Jackson, because he’s another great. Another one would have been Whitney Houston. She’s from our hometown of East Orange, New Jersey. We definitely could have put some classics down with her. The list goes on man, there’s a ton of people we would have loved to work with.
Independent Philly: There have been two noted break-ups within Naughty By Nature. The first time with Kay Gee and then more recently, with you (with Treach even releasing ‘Tall Midget’, a diss track aimed at you). Now that you guys are all back together again, how do you keep animosity from building? Is it more strictly a business proposition at this point than friendship, or have you been able to rekindle a friendship as well?
Vin Rock: I think primarily it’s always been about the friendship and the dynamic, you know? I think initially when Kay left the group, he was exploring other avenues in the R&B field, and running a record label, and I think it got to a point where he wanted to just exercise that opportunity. With Treach and I, I think it’s just more of brothers who have been together forever, and a lot of little things lead up and it snaps. I think at the end of the day, with all that went on, and trying to reconfigure the group, and restructure the group, we realized that nothing is greater than the sum of all the parts. It was a lesson to be learned and I don’t think we have to go there again; it’s all been flushed out. We know what time it is, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Even if we weren’t aware of it before, we understand our legacy and how strong it is, because there is still a fan base out here after all of the drama. The only thing we can do is count our blessings, keep it moving forward, and at the end of the day, I think the fans deserve more from Naughty By Nature, period.
Independent Philly: If we threw you into a rap battle right now, do you have 16 bars that would absolutely slay your opponent?
Vin Rock: Perhaps not. I’d have to size up the opponent first.
Independent Philly: Fair enough. Finally, please tell us something about yourself or Naughty By Nature as a whole that would surprise or even shock our readers…
Vin Rock: For me, I’m more of a conspiracy theorist. I like history, I like to observe what’s going on out here in the world. I just realize there’s like, a lot of smoke & mirrors at play, and, question everything.
Independent Philly: Which of the well known conspiracy theories do you most believe to be true?
Vin Rock: Two of them are the President Kennedy assassination, it’s amazing how that got pulled off, and what they feed the public. It just doesn’t make sense. As well as 9/11. Look at what happened. Three of those towers fell, the Pentagon got hit.There’s no hard-core evidence of a plane hitting the Pentagon, and it’s just mind-boggling to me, the way things work, and the way psychology works, and the way people have power, or the government or institutions have power over the masses. It’s mind-boggling to me.
Philly, we will see you on Sunday evening for what promises to be a classic hip-hop performance from one of the genre’s all time greats: Naughty By Nature. You can pick up advanced tickets right HERE.